What are the obliques?

Obliques is a term that refers to the muscles on the side of the upper body that help rotate the body from side to side. There are actually two sets of obliques, called internal Y external, and each set contracts differently during twisting or side-to-side movements. This is the area of ​​the body where the famous “love handles” that people work so hard to eradicate also develop.

In the front of the abdomen, there is an important muscle called the rectus abdominis, which runs from the pubis to the ribs. On each side of the rectus abdominis, right at the hips, are the internal obliques. The external obliques are higher, on either side of the rectus abdominis, and start at the rib cage.

Whenever a person twists the body, both sets of obliques work, but the action of each muscle depends on which side it twists to. The internal oblique involved when a person turns is on the same side as the turn. For example, turn to the left and the left internal oblique is stretched. In contrast, a twist to the left works the right external oblique muscle, or the one opposite the direction of the twist. It's easy to feel this, and the slight pull on the rib cage and chest that occurs when a person squirms.

There is a great desire to tone the obliques as they can help create a shapely waist and also cause freer movement. Many of the basic sit-ups and sit-ups will not properly tone your oblique muscles, because they involve up and down movements rather than twisting movements. When a contraction incorporates a twist to the side, as the other stomach muscles contract, the obliques are also worked, and the exercise can be more efficient.

A good crunch plus twist exercise is to touch opposite elbows to opposite knees when the body is in the crunch position. This helps engage your obliques while working your rectus abdominis. Such an exercise can be called bicycle crunches.

Other exercises that can target these lateral abdominal muscles include side bends and waist twists, with or without small weights, which can help lengthen and tone your oblique muscles. Many types of exercises that are called "core muscle" exercises at least partially address the obliques, and can be helpful in toning this area while maintaining a good range of motion.

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